Insurgent Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has to offer detailed solutions to the problems he's hammered away at if he's going to win broader GOP support, the chairman of Marco Rubio's Rhode Island campaign said Wednesday.
Trump remains the Republican front-runner, but the party's support remains divided, and some Republicans are unwilling to back Trump.
"I think he has a lot of 'splainin to do on how he's going to do things," Gary Sasse told RIPR.
Sasse, who served as a top aide in the administration of former Governor Don Carcieri, signed on as the chairman of Rubio's Rhode Island campaign last July. Sasse said he remains undecided for now on who he will support for president, but may make a decision later this week.
"I think there are two critical issues," he said. "One critical issue is, can you feel comfortable supporting a candidate where you don't have a good knowledge of how he's going to address the problems and whether the way he would propose to address it is consistent with your philosophy?"
Sasse said he also concerned about "who's on the top of the ticket -- how it affects the balance of the ticket. And if you're concerned about party-building in the state, getting Republicans in governance positions, then you have to give a lot of thought to what person on the top of the ticket would be most successful in getting out the vote."
In Rhode Island, Republicans hold 16 just of 113 legislative seats, and the party was locked out of state and federal offices in the 2014 election for the first time since the 1970s.
Sasse said it's possible that most Rhode Island Republicans would abstain from voting if the general election pits Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"There needs to be a lot of conversations on what Trump, not describing the problem, but talking about how he would unite us, how he would solve the problems, what standards he would use to nominate people to the Supreme Court, who his foreign policy team would be," Sasse said. "I think one of the things in the campaign that he has not done so far, he's talked about the problem, but he hasn't talked about how he would solve the problems, so I think that has to be done."
Sasse attributed Rubio's failure to live up to expectations that he would be a formidable candidate to Trump's ability to appeal to disgruntled voters.
"There was no mystery in what that appeal was," Sasse said. "The middle class, particularly the white middle class, was justifiably angry over its plight and it was angry about stagnant wages and it was angry about social changes. It was angry that they didn't see a better future for their kids. And that anger was reflected in what they saw as an indifference by the country's elites, to be responsive to their problems, and Trump captured that message."
Sasse spoke by phone with Rubio Tuesday night. He points to how the senator's percentage of the vote in the Florida primary -- and how it was lower than his approval rating -- as a sign of the voter discontent seized by Trump.
"Clearly, people were expressing frustration," Sasse said. "Marco lost momentum as result of the New Hampshire debate and he had trouble in this cycle, as other candidates did, of getting people to focus on what a reform agenda would be."
Prior to Tuesday, Trump had support from a handful of elected officials in Rhode Island, including state Sen. Edward O'Neill (I-Lincoln) and Reps. Joseph Trillo (R-Warwick) and Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown).
Another Republican lawmaker, Rep. Daniel Reilly (R-Portsmouth), a Rubio supporter, expressed the view of some in the GOP a few weeks back by asserting there was no way he would vote for Trump.
Trump is expected to win Rhode Island's April 26 presidential primary.